Akiedat Yitzchak – Intentionally Left Vague

Akiedat Yitzchak – Intentionally Left Vague

In Perashat Vayera, which we also read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we are confronted with one of the most difficult stories in the Chumash. I refer to the story of Akiedat Yitzchak – The Binding of Isaac.


Rabbi Levy Ben Gershom is known as the Ralbag. He lived in Provence from 1288 to 1344 CE. In his commentary to Breshit he discusses an interesting point in the difficulty which Avraham Avinu experienced in his hardest trial.

The Pasuk says:

… And The Lord tested Avraham…. And he said to him Take your son, your only one, who you loved, take Yitzchak and go to the Land of Moriah, and bring him up to there for a sacrifice….
(Breshit 22, 1-2)

Ralbag explains that the prophecy which Avraham experienced was not very clear. It is unclear whether Yitzchak is to be the sacrifice or whether Yitzchak is to brought up a mountain to experience an ordinary sacrifice of an animal as his ordination in to the service of G-d.

Indeed, part of the trial was whether Avraham would interpret the statement at his own convenience and simply bring an ordinary sacrifice.

Later it is said:

And Yitzchak said to Avraham His Father, and he said, ‘Father’, and he said ‘I am here my son’, and he said ‘here is the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?’ And Avraham said ‘G-d will see to a lamb as a sacrifice my son’ and they both went together.
(Breshit 22, 7-8)

Ralbag states that Avraham Avinu said this as a prayer:  ‘This should be an educational experience for his son to see the sacrifice of a lamb.’ It became clear to Avraham that this was not the case and that he must instead sacrifice Yitzchak. Just as he was going to kill his son an angel came and informed him that he was to follow the other possible meaning of the prophecy to enlighten his son as to the service of G-d.

How could Avraham Avinu have considered that G-d actually wanted his son dead as a sacrifice? was it not previously stated “Yitzchak will be called your seed”? (Breshit 21,12) that is to say that his progeny would be through Yitzchak. Ralbag continues to say that it is possible for a prophecy which does not have a specific date to be canceled if the circumstances warrant. Avraham believed that Yitzchak Avinu may have  sinned and therefore was not suitable for the position of father of a great nation. If he had sinned then he could be a sacrifice instead.

For a similar discussion see: <http://www.milknhoney.co.il/torah/vayera.html>

Tizku Leshanim Rabot